The consumer-like attitude of patients underscores the importance of practices building and improving relationships
Effective doctor-patient communication is the foundation of patient satisfaction, and that will never change. In fact, managing the patient experience is now more important than ever.
As patients continue to assume greater responsibility for the cost of their care, they are placing greater emphasis on high-quality relationships with their doctors and practices. Patients are also “shopping around” more for doctors, with nearly 25% visiting three or more primary care physicians in the span of two years. This consumer-like attitude of patients underscores the importance of practices strengthening relationships with patients in order to keep them from seeking care elsewhere.
Fortunately, advancements in communication technology can help, as doctor-patient communication is no longer confined inside the walls of the practice. Organizations now have more opportunities than before to expand patient communication at any time between appointments.
Patient Interaction and Satisfaction
Engaging with patients online is critical for a practice’s communication strategy. Social media communication is now a societal norm thanks to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. And 77% of patients admit to using online review sites as a first step in selecting a doctor. Consistent online engagement is of paramount importance in developing patient relationships simply because it meets patients where they are.
Online interactions provide opportunities for providers to further educate patients beyond the exam room and communicate with patients as part of their daily routines. It’s estimated that as many as 75% of Internet users leverage social media for access to healthcare information.
Practices can leverage these online sites in many ways to interact with patients. Whether it’s to establish thought leadership, create a greater sense of community with patients, provide a specific diagnosis or even solve potential service issues, patients will appreciate the access and collaboration that has become essential to improving patient outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Education Beyond Appointments
After patients depart from their appointments, a lack of communication and education from their doctors can lead to feelings of isolation from practices. Consequently, less education also means patients are not as likely to experience better outcomes.
By leveraging tools such as monthly e-newsletters, practices are put in an optimal position to connect with patients consistently, providing access to educational, helpful information pertinent to their own health. Educational resources also make patients aware of other important practice information such as practice promotions, updates on specific procedures and treatment plans, and general healthcare knowledge and tips designed to improve patient outcomes.
These tools also allow practices to cultivate more satisfying patient relationships and lay the foundation for patient loyalty. Targeted educational content empowers greater personal care ownership. Educational resources also help fill in communication gaps between visits and play an important role in the transformation from casual patient interactions to long-term relationships.
Monitoring the Patient Experience
Communication works only if it’s a two-way street. Practices that intentionally seek out patient feedback ensure their patients have a voice in the direction of the practice. Ultimately, patients are the essence of a practice, and with so many healthcare options available at their disposal, monitoring and optimizing the patient experience is now more important than ever.
Patient surveys are a practical way to monitor the patient experience, while also opening up a very critical dialogue between doctors and patients. This creates more opportunities to improve upon patient communication and the patient experience. It also demonstrates that a patient’s opinion is highly valued by the practice, which will lead to more collaborative relationships. They can also be instrumental in helping practices better meet their patient’s needs, resulting in better overall outcomes.
As patient engagement and quality patient relationships continue to grow in importance for both doctors and their practices, it is imperative healthcare organizations take advantage of any opportunity – even the smaller ones – to expand their outreach to patients.
No matter the size, outreach opportunities can significantly impact the effectiveness of a practice’s patient communication. Non-healthcare related outreach opportunities such as a personalized birthday message can sometimes make a big impression on a patient. Taking these initiatives as a practice convey a personal touch to care for the patient and can also provide a large return on investment in regard to patient satisfaction and loyalty.
Solving Key Patient Communication Issues
Responsibility for closing communication gaps and interacting with patients between visits comes at a cost, however, due to the large time commitment it requires. Many practices simply don’t have the time or resources to devote to quality patient communication.
Fortunately, consistent, impactful patient communication that doesn’t negatively affect a practice’s efficiency is achievable through patient relationship management (PRM) software. PRM software offers three primary benefits:
- Automation saves time. Patient communication often suffers due to the lack of available time and resources within a practice. By automating patient communication tasks and leveraging the freedom provided by cloud-based technology, advanced PRM systems provide significant time savings. Whether it’s social media posts, e-newsletters or patient surveys, many communication methods can be scheduled at any time from any location for automatic distribution to patients. This ensures practices communicate with their patients without losing focus on those who are currently in the clinic.
- Reach large groups of patients instantly. Any successful practice will have plenty of patients to communicate with on a consistent basis, but sending out individual emails or text messages for items such as e-newsletters or appointment reminders requires a lot of time and effort. Through a PRM system, a practice can deliver high-quality communications to its entire patient base at the click of the button. PRM systems increase office efficiency and make certain each patient receives the content in a timely manner.
- Maximizes communication visibility. Sending consistent patient communication is important, but if patients aren’t seeing what the practice is sending, patient relationships will remain stagnant. PRM systems track a patient’s communication preferences and strategically deliver each piece of communication to align with the patient’s request. This approach both maximizes visibility of the content and improves patient satisfaction.
Patient communication no longer ends when the patient walks out of the practice, and healthcare professionals can now reach patients in a variety of ways to bridge communication gaps between visits. As the industry shifts dramatically to rewarding value-based care, consistently communicating with patients is essential not only to developing more fulfilling relationships, but to the overall success of the practice.